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Vancouver Sun article (L.A. Kings' Net Whisperer stifles the snipers)

April 21 2012 at 11:51 PM
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Response to Edmonton Journal article (Hockey World April 21: Luongo puts Canucks in a bind)

 
L.A. Kings’ Net Whisperer stifles the snipers

Jonathan Quick has become an elite puckstopper in the NHL, but that doesn’t mean the Kings’ star wants to talk about it

By Iain MacIntyre, Vancouver Sun columnist

April 21, 2012

Goaltender Jonathan Quick of the Los Angeles Kings — shown here making a save off Vancouver forward Alex Burrows — has only surrendered seven goals in four playoff games against the Canucks and was unbeatable Sunday in Game 3 when the Kings posted a 1-0 victory at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.

Photograph by: Andy Clark, Reuters , Vancouver Sun

LOS ANGELES — Most days Jonathan Quick says as little as Darryl Sutter, but with better enunciation.

He isn’t mumbling when he says nothing.

But like his coach with the Los Angeles Kings, Quick is intensely driven. He wants to be a goaltender with more than great statistics in the regular season. Quick wants to win, but good luck getting him to fully articulate that desire when cameras are rolling.

Bill Ranford, the team’s goaltending coach, knows exactly how Quick feels because he was wired the same way as a player.

“I think we’re probably a lot alike in our approach and having that will to win,” Ranford said Friday after the Kings practised ahead of Game 5 of their National Hockey League playoff series Sunday in Vancouver. “I tried to lead by example, what I did on the ice, and I really didn’t say a whole lot in the dressing room. He’s kind of got the same attitude as I had. It’s about wins and nothing else. Sometimes that can be a detriment, but it’s something about him that I like.”

There is much to like about Quick, unless you’re a reporter looking for a snappy quote. Quoteless Joe (Sakic) and Captain Serious (Jonathan Toews) have nothing on Quick, who may be the quietest guy in the series but has made the most impact so far.

The Canucks have changed goalies. The Kings’ goalie merely changed.

Two years ago when the Canucks eliminated the Kings in six games, Quick was a mercurial 24-year-old, first-year starter prone to erratic moments. Now he is one of the steadiest and best goaltenders in the NHL, a technically superb, unflappable all-star who had 10 shutouts during the regular season and whose 1.95 goals-against average would have been eye-popping had St. Louis Blues co-starter Brian Elliott not thrown a 1.56 at the hockey’s history books.

Quick is not the same guy the Canucks dusted two years ago when Vancouver scored 21 goals in six games. He has allowed just seven through four games while stopping 95.2 per cent of the shots he’s faced.

“I think he wants to be with that elite group of goaltenders who not only are good goaltenders and have good stats that are ranked high, but they win,” Los Angeles centre Jarret Stoll said. “He wants to be a champion and wants to win a Stanley Cup. He knows the steps he has to take and he’s taken a lot of them the last two years.

“There are just no holes in him. If he lets a goal in, it’s either been a great shot or a deflection or a lucky bounce. He’s a wall back there. He doesn’t say much, and when he says things it’s from the heart. He takes a lot of pride in his game.”

Much of that comes from Ranford, who played junior hockey in New Westminster for Punch McLean, won a Stanley Cup with the Edmonton Oilers in 1990 and launched his coaching career eight years ago with Don Hay and the WHL’s Vancouver Giants.

“The thing that surprised me and everybody on our team about Punch was his respect for the game,” Ranford explained about his approach. “You hear about this guy and about the brawling and everything, but our guys weren’t allowed to fight for the first 10 games because he felt we had to learn the game and play it properly and have respect for the game.

“That’s something you never forget as a player. You try to take that love of the game and understanding of the game as a coach myself. They may call it old school, but I guess I have a lot of old school with me. My values behind that haven’t changed.”

Quick was unfocused enough as a professional early in his career that the Kings demoted him to the ECHL from their American Hockey League affiliate during the 2007-08 season. A year later, Quick got a call up to the Kings and never left the NHL.

He has won 109 games in three years as a starter but hasn’t made it past the first round of the playoffs. Quick is among the hardest-working Kings, devoted to his craft and fully committed to his team.

Ranford’s respect for the game has rubbed off.

“He’s been huge, not only to me but all the goalies in our organization,” Quick said. “He’s got a good grasp on what it takes mentally and physically to succeed at this level. And him having done it in the past, it gives him a little more knowledge.

“We don’t really talk about his experience, but when he’s trying to help me he draws on that experience.”

About his own evolution, Quick shrugged: “It’s just kind of a natural progression that everyone goes through. You pick up experience, and two more years of coaching at this level pays dividends. It’s just a natural progression.”

“That’s just his personality,” Ranford said of Quick’s below-the-radar nature. “He’s a guy who likes to sleep a lot and is kind of low key. It hurt him early on in his career, missing a few meetings and stuff. But he’s a family man now, married and with a young daughter, and has settled into a life he’s comfortable with. This is about as excited as he gets.

“He’s a little bit more experienced than he was two years ago and his game has become much more consistent. He’s become a leader in our dressing room.”

The strong, silent type.


imacintyre@vancouversun.com

On Twitter: Twitter.com/imacvansun

vancouversun.com

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